Non-surgical or medical abortion is used for early abortion up to nine weeks. Mifepristone and prostaglandin are also used for termination of pregnancy 13 – 24 weeks gestation.
The drug used for medical abortion, mifepristone, also known as RU 486, was first developed in France in the 1980’s and is currently on the market in the UK, France, Sweden, Israel, the US and China. As of January 2004, 29 countries had approved its use, including: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, South Africa and Switzerland.
Extensive testing and research have shown it to be a very safe and effective method. Women who have undergone the procedure found it highly suitable and a good alternative to surgical abortion. Although the use of the ‘abortion pill’ makes the procedure easier to perform without the need for special facilities, women who opt for a medical abortion, in the early stages of pregnancy (up to 9 weeks), are still faced with three separate visits to the clinic. Much still needs to be done to improve access to medical abortion and offer women a real choice in terms of method.